ROGERSVILLE — Alice Wright Summers Hale, known to all as “Alice Wright,” passed away on November 25, 2019 at the age of 93.
She was born on September 6, 1926 in Rogersville, the only child of Thomas Pinkney Summers and Fannie Rhea Bachman Summers.
She attended Mary Baldwin College and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she made many lifelong friends and, with her beautiful soprano voice, starred in a number of school musicals, often alongside tenor Andy Griffith, who went on to become a star in the young medium of television.
After working for several years in the advertising business in New York City (during which period she received — and declined — no fewer than five marriage proposals!), she returned to Rogersville to be closer to her widowed mother.
On December 29, 1951, she married Winfield Berry (“Hap”) Hale III, an attorney, also of Rogersville. They had four children, two sons and two daughters. Their first-born, called “Chip,” had a developmental disability and special needs. As a result of Chip’s considerable handicaps, Alice Wright and Hap became fierce champions not only of Chip but of the other children and their families in East Tennessee with similar needs and challenges. They established the first East Tennessee chapter of the Association for Retarded Citizens and brought much-needed services and support to these children and their families.
Alice Wright became chairwoman of the board at Greene Valley, the East Tennessee state institution for developmentally delayed children and adults, and she served in that role for several years during the sixties and seventies. Her commitment and service to this special needs community continued throughout her life, long after Chip passed away in 1997 at the age of 43.
The East Tennessee ARC chapter established Helping Hands, a sheltered workshop on Hasson Street in Rogersville, where citizens with developmental disabilities could get a decent-paying job and become more independent. After Chip’s death, and completely to Alice Wright’s surprise, Helping Hands was re-named The Chip Hale Center, to honor the person whose special needs eventually spurred his parents, and particularly his mother, to do so much to help families in similar circumstances. The Chip Hale Center remains a vital institution to this day.
Alice Wright was a steadfast and dedicated member of the Rogersville Presbyterian Church throughout her life. She served in many leadership roles in the church over the years, but the one that gave her the most joy and personal satisfaction was directing the church’s children’s choir. She also continued to dazzle the congregation with her beautiful singing voice, and, for many church members, one of the highlights of the year was hearing Alice Wright sing “O Holy Night” at the Christmas Eve service. Over the years, quite a few non-Presbyterian Rogersvillians were spotted slipping quietly into the church’s back pews just before Alice Wright began to sing her celestial rendition of “O Holy Night.”
Alice Wright embodied Southern charm and hospitality. She loved people, and her door was always open to friends and strangers alike. The sweet tea was always ready in the pitcher, and the bite of chocolate or a few cheese biscuits always on hand.
In the years following Hap’s untimely death in 1981, Alice Wright also spent time traveling the world, taking trips with old friends to Europe, China, Russia, Australia and Africa. Her beautiful home on West Main Street was dotted with mementos of her extensive travels.
She was inordinately proud of her children and was the kind of mother who believed that you can never tell your children “I love you” too many times.
She was predeceased by her parents, her husband Hap and her son Chip.
She is survived by her daughter Ann Bachman Hale-Smith and son-in-law Frank Martin Smith III; her son Thomas Summers Hale and daughter-in-law Jennie McLeod Hale; her daughter Alma Phillips Hale Paty and son-in-law John Collins Paty III; her grandchildren Margaret Hale Baggett, Robert McLeod Hale, Thomas Winfield (“Chip”) Hale, Clarke Hale Paty, Ellenia Summers (“Ellie”) Paty, and Wesley Bingham Paty, her step-grandson Frank Martin Smith IV and step-grandson-in-law Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale; her first cousin and brother-in-heart Kenton Coe; and her devoted caregivers in her final years, Lois Slater, Luella Alvis and Ida Lee.
A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 30, 2019, at Rogersville Presbyterian Church, with Reverend Rodney Norris officiating. The family will receive visitors at the church from 11 a.m ., until the service.
The family is being served by Christian-Sells Funeral Home of Rogersville.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Chip Hale Center, 310 North Hasson Street, Rogersville, or to the Rogersville Presbyterian Church, 309 West Kyle Street, Rogersville.